Impact of the WHO "best buys" for alcohol policy on consumption and health in the Baltic countries and Poland 2000–2020
The Lancet Regional Health - Europe , 33:100704, 1–9 (2023)
Alcohol use is a major risk factor for burden of disease. This narrative review aims to document the effects of major alcohol control policies, in particular taxation increases and availability restrictions in the three Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) between 2000 and 2020. These measures have been successful in curbing alcohol sales, in general without increasing consumption of alcoholic beverages from unrecorded sources; although for more recent changes this may have been partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, findings from time-series analyses suggest improved health, measured as reductions in all-cause and alcohol-attributable mortality, as well as narrowing absolute mortality inequalities between lower and higher educated groups. For most outcomes, there were sex differences observed, with alcohol control policies more strongly affecting males. In contrast to this successful path, alcohol control policies were mostly dismantled in the neighbouring country of Poland, resulting in a rising death toll due to liver cirrhosis and other alcohol-attributable deaths. The natural experiment in this region of high-income European countries with high consumption levels highlights the importance of effective alcohol control policies for improving population health.
Keywords: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, alcoholism, health, health policy